In congested urban areas, bicycles compete with cars for road space and if they collide, it's the bicyclist who is left with serious injuries and a hefty medical bill. If you or a loved one has been injured in a biking accident, you may not be aware that you can file a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the collision.
Scope of the problem
Despite the longevity--and success--of public awareness campaigns about the benefits of biking about town instead of driving, still only about one percent of daily trips can be chalked up to bicycle transportation. However, in 2013, 900 people lost their lives in bike vs. motor vehicle collisions and nearly ½ million victims were seen in emergency rooms for injuries sustained in such accidents. Just in case those numbers don't seem very big when one considers the entire United States population, consider this: in 2010, biking accidents resulted in $10 billion worth of lifetime medical costs and productivity losses for their victims.
Biking accidents do occur with more regularity in some states than others. For instance, from 2010 to 2012, California led the nation in biking fatalities, with Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois and Michigan coming in right behind. Nearly 70% of deaths during these years occurred in urban areas, and certainly these states are noted for large, congested cities.
Why is such a small percentage of travelers so in danger? Experts break down the reasons as follows:
Older adults represent the greatest increase in bicyclists, and therefore are likely to experience serious injuries in an accident; their bodies are not as strong and resilient as younger people.
Many motorists simply don't see bicyclists.
Head injuries sustained in a bicycle accident are almost a given, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the majority of victims in fatal accidents were not wearing helmets. For example, in 2013, 63% of deaths involved no helmet.
Personal injury claims
As a bicyclist, do you have recourse to personal injury claims if you are injured in an accident? Absolutely! You are allowed to share the road with motor vehicles, and as long as you are obeying traffic laws, you have the same right to compensation after an accident as any motorist. However, as would apply to any motorist, if you were at fault in the accident you do not have a right to recoup money spent on medical bills or time lost from work--even if you are the one who got the worst of the injuries.
Building a successful case
According to Bruce Deming, a Washington, D.C. cyclist and personal injury attorney, the key to a successful personal injury claim is witness statements. Law enforcement officers sometimes do not give bike accidents serious enough attention, he says, so it is important that you get as many bystander accounts of the accident as possible. If you are able to do so (or have a friend with you who can step in), ask witnesses to write a short statement on the spot and include their names and phone numbers.
Other tips to building a winning case include
Establishing problematic issues of an accident scene (such as lack of directional signs or traffic lights) with photographs of the scene from several angles, preferably taken at the time of the day the accident occurred
Writing up your own statement of the accident as soon as possible; sometimes details fade as days pass
Taking an ambulance to the hospital if one is offered; this will provide documentation of your medical situation as soon as paramedics arrive on the scene--information that could prove critical to your claim
Lastly, schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney who has had success winning claims for bicycle accident cases. For free, he/she will review the facts of your case and the evidence you have already compiled. If your case has merit the lawyer will likely take it on a contingency basis, meaning you will not have to pay anything unless you receive an award.
Don't assume that because you are not a motorist, you don't have the same right to pursue a personal injury claim. Call an attorney, such as Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP, today.